Andy Burnham

Andy Burnham had the comrades cackling with glee when he opened his stint as Shadow Education Minister yesterday, attacking Michael Gove for failing “to understand the difference between being a minister and a journalist”

Gove was a journalist for many years but look again at that sentence and it highlights something interesting; Gove has had a career outside politics. If that sentence were directed at Burnham what would you replace “journalist” with?

It’s difficult to tell. Gaining a Masters in English from Cambridge Burnham went straight into politics, working as a researcher for Tess Jowell from 1994 to 1997. After the election Jowell became Minister of State in the Department of Health which made Burnham the obvious choice to be appointed Parliamentary Officer for the NHS Confederation, a pressure group for health service providers. Nice work if you can get it!

In December 1997 Burnham’s experience of the health service made him an obvious choice to be appointed to the Football Task Force, a body set up by the Blair government to either revamp football in the UK or pump out a lot of hot air courting the football vote depending on your opinion of Blair’s sincerity.

In 1998 Burnham got itchy feet again. He became special advisor to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Chris Smith. Burnham remained in this role until he himself was elected to the Commons in 2001.

Given this background Burnham was unwise to draw attention to Gove’s life before politics; Burnham never had one. Despite his regional accent and man of the people schtick, Andy Burnham is another of the class of professional politicians who go straight from university into politics and bounce from one cushy non job to the next waiting for their turn at the Parliamentary trough.

Burnham isn’t the only one, indeed, politics today seems to be filled with characters like this, but given his background Burnham would be well advised to leave Michael Gove’s CV out of this.